Friday, May 15, 2009

Lenovo G530 Review

Lenovo offers three lines of notebooks; the ThinkPad, IdeaPad, and the not-so-frequently-mentioned "Value line" series. The Value line currently only includes the G530, a 15.4” notebook offering either an Intel Pentium dual-core or Core 2 Duo processor and Intel integrated graphics. With a starting price of $429, is the Lenovo G530 value notebook worth considering? Read our full review to find out.

Lenovo Value line G530 Specifications:

  • Intel Pentium Dual-Core T3400 (2.16GHz, 1MB L2 cache, 667MHz FSB)
  • Microsoft Genuine Windows Vista Home Premium (w/ SP1)
  • 15.4-inch glossy 16:10 display (1280x800)
  • Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 4500MHD
  • 3GB DDR2 667MHz RAM
  • 250GB 5400RPM HDD
  • SuperMulti DVD+/-RW Optical Drive
  • Broadcom WiFi (802.11b/g), 10/100 Ethernet, Modem
  • 6-Cell 11.1V 53WHr Battery
  • Limited 1-year standard parts and labor warranty
  • Dimensions: 14.1 x 10.1 x 1.45
  • Weight: 5lbs 13.9oz
  • Price as configured: $499

Build and Design
The design of the Lenovo G530 is simple yet stylish, having a black MacBook-ish appearance when the notebook is closed. The edges are rounded off and the lid has a matte black finish that is smooth to the touch. The interior of the notebook shares the same color as the lid, but is textured with a rougher matte finish similar to what you would find on unpainted sections of a ThinkPad. Lenovo took the back-to-basics route with the color scheme on this notebook, making it entirely black inside and out.

The chassis is constructed entirely of plastic, but where most budget notebooks might feel flexible or flimsy, the G530 feels like a solid block of sturdy material. When talking about the palm rest on most notebooks, including ThinkPads, notebooks with good support still show some flex under a very strong grip. Somehow squeezing the palm rests on the G530 feels like you are trying to squeeze a rock. Other areas of the notebook share the same toughness, including the keyboard and surrounding trim.

To upgrade components the G530 has easy access panels to the memory and CPU, wireless card, and hard drive on the bottom of the notebook. No components, including the processor, had “warranty void if removed” stickers, making it very easy to handle upgrades or repairs in the future.

The 15.4” LCD is above average compared to most 15.4-16” notebooks, with bright and vibrant colors and decent viewing angles. The panel used is an older 16:10 1280x800 panel, instead of the newer 16:9 1366x768 versions we see in most notebooks today. The screen offers a glossy surface, which helps improve colors and contrast at the cost of added reflections and glare. Compared to “frameless” displays the reflections were tolerable as long as you were not outside under direct sunlight. Screen brightness was adequate for viewing in bright office conditions, but might not cut it outside unless it is an overcast day. Vertical viewing angles were adequate with a broad viewing sweet spot measuring 30 degrees forward or back before colors started to wash out or invert. Horizontal view angles were much better, showing no color distortion at steep angles.

Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard is easy to type on, sharing the same comfortable and durable feel as my ThinkPad T60 keyboard and only differing in layout. Individual key action is smooth with no audible click when pressed. The keys are textured with a smooth matte finish, giving decent traction for typing ... unlike the glossy keyboards we are seeing on a greater number of notebooks these days. Keyboard support is excellent, with no hint of flex under strong typing pressure. Media-related keys are limited to touch-sensitive mute and volume up/down buttons located above the keyboard.

The G530 uses a Synaptics touchpad that has good sensitivity and no discernable lag during use. The surface texture is a smooth matte finish that is easy to slide a finger across even when moist. The touchpad buttons are large and positioned directly under the touchpad. I found them easy to trigger, needing only light pressure to activate. Feedback from the buttons was minimal, giving off only a sharp click when pressed. If you prefer to disable the touchpad, the keyboard has a function key that will disable it and light a blue LED in-between the touchpad buttons.

Ports and Features
Port selection is limited compared to other full-size notebooks, offering only four USB ports, VGA-out, and audio jacks. eSATA and HDMI would have been greatly appreciated, but we understand that sometimes in order to cut costs some things have to be sacrificed.

Front: Wireless on/off, audio jacks

Rear: Screen hinge

Left: Kensington lock slot, LAN, VGA, 2 USB, ExpressCard/54

Right: Modem, 2 USB, optical drive, AC power

Speakers and Audio
The onboard speakers are fine for occasionally playing music or watching video, but they were fairly unimpressive as far as notebook speakers go. Bass and midrange were lacking, but given the low-cost nature of this notebook it was expected. Peak volume levels were fine for a small room, but for the best possible audio quality a pair of headphones connected through the audio jack is the best option.

Performance and Benchmarks
System performance of the G530 was good considering it was equipped with an Intel Pentium T3400 dual-core processor instead of a Core 2 Duo like most of the budget models we review. Graphics are limited to integrated only, with the Intel X4500 chipset used in this notebook. While it can’t handle the latest games, it easily copes with standard applications such as Microsoft Word, Firefox, iTunes, and other media applications. It can also handle playing HD movies, but with only VGA out, external video connections are limited. Overall for basic small business or student use this notebook would work just fine.

wPrime processor comparison results (lower scores mean better performance):

Notebook / CPU wPrime 32M time
Lenovo T500 (Intel Core 2 Duo T9600 @ 2.8GHz)
HP EliteBook 8530w (Intel Core 2 Duo T9400 @ 2.53GHz) 30.919s
Lenovo ThinkPad SL500 (Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 @ 2.4GHz) 32.275s
HP ProBook 4510s (Intel Core 2 Duo T6570 @2.1GHz) 36.583s
Lenovo G530 (Intel Pentium Dual-Core T3400 @ 2.16GHz) 38.470s
Dell Vostro 1510 (Intel Core 2 Duo T5670 @ 1.8GHz)

PCMark05 measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):

Notebook PCMark05 Score
Lenovo T500 (2.80GHz Intel T9600, ATI Radeon 3650 256MB GDDR3) 7,050 PCMarks
HP EliteBook 8530w (2.53GHz Intel T9400, Nvidia Quadro FX 770M 512MB) 6,287 PCMarks
Lenovo T500 (2.80GHz Intel T9600, Intel X4500) 5,689 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad SL500 (2.4GHz Intel P8600, Nvidia 9300M GS 256MB) 5,390 PCMarks
HP ProBook 4510s (2.1GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6570, Intel 4500MHD) 4,192 PCMarks
Lenovo G530 (2.16GHz Intel Pentium Dual-Core T3400, Intel Intel 4500MHD) 4,110 PCMarks
Dell Vostro 1510 (1.8GHz Intel T5670, Intel X3100) 3,568 PCMarks

3DMark06 measures overall graphics performance for gaming (higher scores mean better performance):

Notebook 3DMark06 Score
HP EliteBook 8530w (2.53GHz Intel T9400, Nvidia Quadro FX 770M 512MB) 5,230 3DMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad T500 (2.80GHz Intel T9600, ATI Radeon 3650 256MB GDDR3) 4,371 3DMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad SL500 (2.4GHz Intel P8600, Nvidia 9300M GS 256MB) 2,242 3DMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad T500 (2.80GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9600, Intel X4500)
809 3DMarks
HP ProBook 4510s (2.1GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6570, Intel 4500MHD)
748 3DMarks
Lenovo G530 (2.16GHz Intel Pentium Dual-Core T3400, Intel Intel 4500MHD) 730 3DMarks
Dell Vostro 1510 (1.8GHz Intel T5670, Intel X3100) 519 3DMarks

HDTune storage drive performance test:

Heat and Noise
Thermal performance of the G530 is very good thanks to the large chassis, slower processor, and integrated graphics. Under stress the system controlled temperatures very well, and under normal loads the bottom of the notebook and palmrests stayed cool to the touch. Fan noise was minimal, with it staying off under light system loads, and going just above a whisper under intensive use. The one hotspot that stood out on the G530 was the panel beneath the hard drive that warmed up considerably if you were stressing the disk.

The Lenovo G530 uses a moderately sized 6-cell battery that gives modest performance when not plugged into the wall. In our tests with screen brightness at 70%, wireless active, and Vista set to the "balanced" profile the system stayed on for 3 hours and 29 minutes. Average power consumption during the test was between 14 and 15 watts. A better processor with enhanced low-power modes might give increased battery time, possibly extending battery life beyond 4 hours.

Lenovo really made a great budget notebook with the G530. It feels solid and well built, something that isn’t usually the case when it comes to low-cost notebooks. Styling is very basic, similar to the Dell Vostro or HP ProBook line, and just like the ThinkPad comes in an all-black color scheme. System performance was fine for normal use, and could even handle HD content. Gaming is out of the question, but given its intended market that is hardly a concern. Compared to a Vostro or ProBook I think the G530 feels sturdier and given the price and configuration, the G530 is a better deal. Overall I think Lenovo should be pushing this notebook to small and medium businesses instead of the ThinkPad SL500, since the G530 feels like a much better machine.

Dell Announces Mini 10v Netbook (Updated)

Dell today announced the availability of the new Inspiron Mini 10v netbook along with six new color options for the Inspiron 15 notebook and new Inspiron Slim and Mini-Tower Desktops.

The big news, obviously, is the launch of the Inspiron Mini 10v. Dell's Inspiron Mini series of netbooks has been largely popular thanks to the balance of mobility and affordability ... with several Dell Inspiron Mini netbooks priced below $300. The new Mini 10v will be available just in time for summer travel and lets students get an early jump on their back-to-school efforts.

Dell intends the Inspiron Mini 10v to be a lower-cost configuration of the original Mini 10. Like the rest of the Inspiron Mini family, this budget-priced ultra-portable laptop makes a great Internet companion to help keep students, bloggers or adult travelers connected in a more convenient form than a smartphone. Available in seven color options, the $299 Mini 10v will likely prove to be a popular netbook in the current economic environment.

Here are the key features and specs for the new Inspiron Mini 10v:

  • New, larger keyboard – 92 percent of a standard full-size keyboard for comfort and ease of use
  • Your choice of one of seven colors: Obsidian Black, Alpine White, New Cherry Red, Promise Pink (US), Ice Blue, Jade Green and new Passion Purple
  • 120GB, 160GB hard drives and 16GB solid state drive (XP and Ubuntu); 8GB SSD (Ubuntu)
  • 1GB RAM
  • Availability of Ubuntu Linux or Windows XP operating systems
  • Built-in webcam to stay in touch with family and friends
  • Multiple connectivity options
  • Optional built in Bluetooth connectivity
  • Starting at $299 US

Stay tuned to for a full review of the Dell Inspiron Mini 10v coming soon.


We spent some hands-on time with the new budget-friendly Inspiron Mini 10v yesterday and took a few photos to hold you over until our full review. The build quality is still pretty solid despite the use of more plastic rather than the alloy used in the standard Mini 10. The keyboard is certainly one of the better ones we've seen on a 10-inch netbook and rivals the excellent keyboard used on the HP Mini 1000 and HP Mini 2140. This may prove to be a popular netbook for Dell this year.

Toshiba Portege A605 Review

The Toshiba Portege A605 is a 12.1" ultra-portable notebook designed for business travelers who want something small and lightweight, but don’t want to make any compromises when it comes to features. The A600 series notebooks offer an on-board optical drive so users can enjoy movies or install applications on the road, eSATA to expand storage, and a power saving Intel Centrino 2 platform to squeeze out as much battery life as possible. In this review we find out how well the A605 stands up to the rigors of day-to-day use, and if it is worth purchasing this notebook over a netbook or other ultra-portable notebooks.

Toshiba Portege A605-P210 Specifications:

* Processor: 1.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo SU9400 (800MHz FSB, 3MB Cache)
* Graphics: Intel X4500 Integrated Graphics
* Operating System: Windows Vista Home Premium with SP 1 (32-bit)
* Screen: 12.1" diagonal WXGA LED-Backlit Display (1280x800)
* Memory: 3GB PC6400 DDR2 (1GB onboard, 2GB in slot, 5GB Max)
* Storage: 320GB Hitachi SATA HDD (5400rpm)
* Optical Drive: LabelFlash SuperMulti 8X DVD+/-R/RW with Double Layer Support
* Intel 5100AGN WLAN with Bluetooth 2.1 w/ EDR
* Power: 6-cell Li-Ion 5800mAh battery, 45W AC adapter
* Dimensions: 11.3" x 8.8" x 1.2"
* Weight: 3lbs 1.8oz (3lbs 11.9oz travel weight)
* Warranty: 1-year
* Price as configured: $1,399.99

Build and Design
The Portege looks very classy for a business notebook, with glossy piano black keyboard bezel and screen cover along with a matte silver base. The port and button layout appears to be very well thought out with effort put into things as simple as the power and activity indicators. The silver keyboard contrasts the black finish, with a nice matte finish with black lettering that is easy to read.

Build quality is hit or miss depending on what part of the notebook you are looking at. The quality of the finish is excellent, with a thick layer of glossy black paint that appears to be scratch resistant. On the flip side, the plastic used to construct the notebook suffers from abnormal amounts of flex--a side effect of its lightweight construction. The palm rest and lower half of the case flex inward when you grip the notebook to carry it around, and even resting your palms on the palm rest makes them bend in slightly. The screen cover shows similar flex and when gripped firmly makes the display show signs of color distortion around the edges and center. The screen itself also has some issues in how it is mounted, showing a pressure spot in the bottom corner that "flashes" when the screen jiggles on your lap or desk surface.

Upgrading the components on the A605 is more difficult that the average notebook, with half of the RAM soldered to the motherboard and no access panel for the hard drive. While most business users probably won’t be modifying company issued hardware, regular users who buy this notebook might be upset.

The 12.1" display is average compared to other business ultra-portable notebooks, but below average if you compare it to the screens on larger notebooks. Colors are bright and vibrant thanks to some help from the LED-backlighting. Overall brightness is adequate for viewing in an office setting but not bright enough for using the notebook outside under direct sunlight. The screen is evenly lit across the entire surface, with the only hotspot showing near the screen hinge attachment points ... which pinch the screen slightly. Vertical viewing angles are average, with colors quickly washing out or distorting outside of the viewing sweet spot. Horizontal viewing angles are much better, staying accurate at steep angles, only dimming as it rotates further away from you.

Keyboard and Touchpad
The A605 features a nearly full-size keyboard with the primary keys being the same size as on a larger notebook, but the surrounding keys are condensed to fit inside the frame of the Portege. The keyboard is comfortable to type on, but suffers from the same flex issue as the palm rest and notebook bottom. Under moderate pressure the entire keyboard surface will sink in, giving you a trampoline feeling as you type. Individual key action is smooth, giving off a very mild click noise when pressed.

Toshiba includes an ALPS touchpad on the A605, which is quite large for a 12” notebook. It is quick and responsive, with very little lag noticed during our tests. Fingertip sensitivity is much better than older ALPS touchpads we have seen, is slightly under a Synaptics model. The touchpad surface has a rough matte finish, which is easily to slide across even if your finger is slightly moist from sweat. The touchpad buttons were disappointing, being very small and having shallow feedback when pressed. The buttons are mounted flush with the chrome trim under the touchpad and are so tightly fit that they rub against the edges when pressed.

Ports and Features
Port selection on the A605 is good for an ultra-portable notebook, including three USB ports, VGA, LAN, audio jacks, and eSATA through a combo port. While HDMI or DisplayPort might be handy, many business users still use VGA for projectors and it is more than capable for connecting the notebook to a secondary monitor. The bottom of the notebook also features a docking connector, for further port expansion.

Front view
Rear view

Left view
Right view

System performance of the Toshiba Portege A605 falls somewhere between a full-size notebook and a netbook. The ultra-low voltage SU9400 processor sacrifices speed at the cost of performance to gain battery life. For normal system activities such as typing documents, working on spreadsheets, surfing the Web, or even watching SD video the system shows no signs of lagging. Light gaming or HD movies will stress the system, pegging the processor and drastically increasing power consumption. HD movies were very playable, with most 720P and 1080P content putting the processor under a 45-60% load depending on the amount of motion on screen. Games are limited to older things such as the original Half-Life.

wPrime processor comparison results (lower scores mean better performance):
Notebook / CPU wPrime 32M time
Lenovo ThinkPad X200 (Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 @ 2.40GHz) 32.119 seconds
HP EliteBook 2530p (Intel Core 2 Duo SL9400 @ 1.86GHz) 41.263 seconds
Toshiba Portege A605 (Intel Core 2 Duo SU9400 @ 1.4GHz) 54.458 seconds
Sony VAIO TZ (Core 2 Duo U7600 @ 1.2GHz) 76.240 seconds
HP Pavilion dv2 (AMD Athlon Neo MV-40 @ 1.6GHz)
103.521 seconds
ASUS Eee PC 1000HE (Intel Atom N280 @ 1.66GHz) 114.749 seconds
Lenovo IdeaPad S10 (2009) (Intel Atom @ 1.60GHz) 126.406 seconds

PCMark05 measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):
Notebook PCMark05 Score
HP EliteBook 2530p (1.86GHz Intel Core 2 Duo SL9400, Intel 4500MHD) 5,787 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad X200 (2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8600, Intel X4500) 4,298 PCMarks
Toshiba Portege A605 (1.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo SU9400, Intel GMA X4500) 3,459 PCMarks
Sony VAIO TZ (1.20GHz Intel Core 2 Duo U7600, Intel GMA 950) 2,446 PCMarks
HP Pavilion dv2 (1.6GHz AMD Athlon Neo, ATI Radeon HD 3410 512MB) 2,191 PCMarks
Toshiba Portege R500 (1.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo U7600, Intel GMA 950) 1,839 PCMarks
ASUS Eee PC 1000HE (1.66GHz Intel Atom N280, Intel GMA 950) 1,535 PCMarks
Lenovo IdeaPad S10 (2009) (1.6GHz Intel Atom, Intel GMA 950) 1,478 PCMarks

3DMark06 comparison results against notebooks @ 1280 x 800 resolution:
Notebook 3DMark06 Score
HP TouchSmart tx2 (2.4GHz Turion X2 Ultra ZM-86, ATI Radeon HD 3200) 1,685 3DMarks
HP Pavilion dv2 (1.6GHz AMD Athlon Neo, ATI Radeon HD 3410 512MB)
1,355 3DMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad X200 Tablet (Intel Core 2 Duo 1.86GHz, GMA X4500)
921 3DMarks
HP EliteBook 2530p (1.86GHz Intel Core 2 Duo SL9400, Intel 4500MHD) 898 3DMarks
Toshiba Portege A605 (1.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo SU9400, Intel GMA X4500) 617 3DMarks
Apple MacBook Air (1.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P7500, Intel X3100)
502 3DMarks
Sony VAIO TZ (1.20GHz Core 2 Duo U7600, Intel GMA 950) 122 3DMarks

HDTune for the built-in hard drive:

The Portege A605 is equipped with a single mono speaker that was surprisingly loud ... even when compared to other low-end notebooks with stereo speakers. It lacks bass and midrange, but considering how bad it could have been, it surprised us in the office during our music test. For listening to music, viewing YouTube clips, or watching a movie it would probably work fine, but as always, headphones are one of the best accessories for notebook users.

Toshiba includes an ultra-low voltage Intel Core 2 Duo processor inside the A605 Portege, which we thought would help in the battery life department. Under normal operating conditions the notebook floats around 9 to 11 watts of power consumption, which sounds low, but not as low as some larger notebooks. The Lenovo ThinkPad T400 for example consumes only 8.5 watts of power when under light processor loads, and that specific configuration had the high performance T9600 processor. In our battery test with the screen at 70% backlight, wireless active, and Vista set to the "Balanced" profile, the A605 stayed on for 5 hours and 27 minutes. While this is still a respectable figure, we think it could have reach a much greater time with better power management.

One stand-out feature of the A605 is the super small 45W power adapter. It is great for traveling, since it doesn’t add that much weight to your bag, and if you get a different power cord for it, takes up very little space. The downside to such a small power adapter though is the very slow charge rate on the notebook, taking hours to complete a charge if the notebook is on.

Heat and Noise
Overall the Portege A605 doesn’t get that hot under normal use, and only develops hot spots under prolonged benchmarks. The Intel Core 2 Dup SU9400 helps keep processor heat output to a minimum, with a 10 watt maximum consumption rate. Under normal use the palm rests stay relatively cool, about 4 to 10 degrees above our room temperature of 74 degrees Fahrenheit. The one hotspot we found is located at the top left of the keyboard, near the power jack. Fan noise is minimal, with the fan actually being off under most of the time. When the fan is on the only time you notice it is running is when you feel hot air blowing on your arm from the vent on the side.

The Toshiba Portege A605 offers good looks and a small form factor, but compromises build quality to achieve its very low weight. The palm rest, keyboard, and screen all exhibit a good amount of flex, which doesn’t bode well for thoughts of durability. Looking past the flexible chassis, the notebook does offer a built-in optical drive, and still keeps the overall weight to just above 3lbs. For a business traveler who only cares about that, this notebook falls right in the weight range of most netbooks. With the current list price of $1,399 it is priced against the Lenovo ThinkPad X200 or about double the price of an HP Pavilion dv2. Overall I think the Portege A605 offers a lot potential for a customer interested in a good looking business notebook, but it has a few areas that could see some improvement.


* Weighs in at 3lbs, even with built-in optical drive
* Good battery life
* Cool operation
* Very small power adapter


* Slow charging rate while the notebook is powered on and charging at the same time
* Flexible chassis

Purchase protection on balance transfers

To Her Credit
To Her Credit, Sally Herigstad
Sally Herigstad is a certified public accountant and the author of "Help! I Can't Pay My Bills: Surviving a Financial Crisis" (St. Martin's Press, 2006).

Ask a question.

To Her Credit' stories

Question for the expert

Dear To Her Credit,
I recently made a large purchase (my wedding dress) on a credit card. I am considering transferring the balance to another card with a better interest rate. However, I was wondering if my purchase will still be protected if I transfer the balance?

I noticed that sometimes credit cards give a time limit of 60 days for disputing a transaction, but I may not know if there are issues with my wedding dress order until after that.

Do you know if I would still be covered after the 60 days, and also if I transferred the balance? -- Jacque

Answer for the expert

Dear Jacque,
Your purchase is still covered even if you transferred the balance to another credit card, just like it would be if you had paid it off.

That's a good thing, because if you use your credit card for many purchases every month, it would be almost impossible to determine which purchases have been paid for already and which ones are still in your balance. (That's one of the problems with credit card balances -- we don't really know what they're all from!)

Besides, if purchases were only protected until they were paid off, cardholders might use that as a reason to put off paying their bills in full. They could rack up big interest bills for months just because they were waiting to see if their purchases worked out. Fortunately, that's not necessary.

When you buy something using your credit card, the bank charges the merchant a processing fee. Part of that fee is to cover the purchase protection provided by the credit card company. The bank may or may not also make money charging interest if you carry a balance, but that has nothing to do with your purchase protection.

The length of time you have to notify the credit card company depends on whether you have a transaction dispute or a dispute over the quality of goods or services. A transaction dispute occurs when you don't know who the biller is, they billed you twice or the dress never arrived. You have a dispute over quality, on the other hand, if the dress is poorly made or falls apart before you can get up and down the aisle.

You must notify the credit card company within a specified period of time, generally 60 days, about a transaction dispute. It's tempting, when the bill comes, to pay it now and look closely at each transaction later. However, it's easy to miss the deadline for catching billing errors and other problems that way. Make a habit of reading your whole statement as soon as you open it, and make sure you know what you're paying for.

If you have a dispute over the quality of goods or services, you have a more flexible time frame. Exactly how much time is not spelled out, but if you are ordering your wedding dress several months before the wedding, that should give you plenty of time to decide if the dress is made to your satisfaction.

If you do have problems with the dress, first try to work something out with the merchant. If you don't have any luck there, write to your credit card company and explain the problem. Include your name and account number, the dollar amount of the purchase, the problem you are having, and what you would like to do. (For example, return the dress and get your money back.)

Go ahead and transfer the balance to another lower interest credit card or pay it off. Paying less interest is good for your pocketbook, and it won't lessen your consumer protection through your credit card.

Take care of your credit!

2009 Can-Am Spyder: Want A Ride?

Can-AmSpyder 053

Melbourne nut-bags, and sensible people too, have the chance to test ride the three-wheel Can-Am Spyder Roadster this weekend.

The ‘Spyder Experience’ roadshow rolls into Melbourne this weekend at the St Kilda Sea Baths Car Park, and the first 150 to register online will get to test ride the three-wheeled weapon.

Choosing the St Kilda Sea Baths as the roadshow venue would appear to be appropriate. BRP’s Can-Am Spyder is what happens when a designer gets the wild idea to put wheels under a jet-ski (kind-of).


As Rod Chapman’s TMR review of the 2009 Can-Am Spyder showed, driving the Spyder is a hoot. With two front wheels for balanced and stable performance riding, the 990cc Spyder Roadster can cover the 0-100 km/h sprint in just over 4 seconds.

If you’re Melbourne-based and among the first 150 to register, you will get the chance to put the roadster through its paces - first with instructors in a controlled environment, and then a ride together on the open road.

Sounds like a great way to spend a couple of hours this weekend.

To register online, just hit

Or, for more information, email or phone 0407 492 847.

2010 Audi A5 Sportback And RS5 Cabrio Confirmed, New A8, A1, Q5 Hybrid And Q3 Along For The Ride

The Audi Sportback concept revealed at the Detroit Auto Show this year.

TMR reported last week that the Audi A5 Sportback has been rumoured to be making an appearance at the upcoming Frankfurt Motor Show in September. Today it seems that one can be kicked into the ‘confirmed’ column.

Speaking to Audi AG shareholders at the company’s annual meeting, Chairman of the Board Rupert Stadler announced that not only will the A5 Sportback debut later this year, but that the upcoming RS5 will be available in both coupe and cabrio form.

The Audi Sportback concept.

The A5 Sportback will be launched later this year, and is expected to be powered by a range of engines that includes the company’s 157kW 2.0 litre TFSI, the new 213kW 3.0 litre V6, and a diesel V6 to round out the options.

While Stadler would not offer a date for the car’s reveal or launch, Audi’s Chairman of the Board was confident that the A5 Sportback will be viewed by consumers as the perfect option for those seeking a blend of functionality and style.

According to the UK’s car magazine, a senior source at Audi has confirmed that the upcoming 2010 Audi RS5 will be powered by the same 4.2 litre providing motivation for the hot-to-trot Audi RS4 and Audi R8 supercar.

The upcoming Audi RS5 will sit above the the 2009 Audi S5 (pictured) as the flagship of the range.

The naturally-aspirated RS5 is expected to develop around 335kW, backed up by a goodly 450Nm of torque, with the 0-100km/h sprint likely to occur in around 4 to 5 seconds.

Stadler’s speech included talk of the 2010 Audi A8, which he said will set new standards for interior quality and style, and will be the sportiest model in the large luxury car segment. The new A8 will be launched in November, so images and details should be forthcoming in the next few months.

The Audi A1 Sportback Concept.

The highly anticipated 2010 Audi A1 minicar is also expected to hit showrooms in 2010, accompanied by a hybrid version of the company’s Q5 CUV and followed by the smaller Audi Q3 CUV in 2011.

Stadler also covered the introduction of Start-Stop technology to the Audi line, which TMR reported on yesterday.

Plenty of Audi news to look forward to in 2009 and 2010, and no doubt The Transporter will be as rapt to see the new A8 as we expect to be.

Better Place To Set-Up Electric Car Battery Exchanges in Australia


With the car-buying market becoming increasingly conscious of environmental issues, there is a growing impetus among manufacturers to meet consumer demand for greater fuel economy and lower emissions.

Now, with the advent of ‘plug-in-and-charge’ electric vehicles such as the upcoming Chevrolet Volt, and a number of other all-electric models expected in Australia within the next three years (including a Nissan vehicle as shown above), the question of a universal infrastructure for recharging and battery swaps has become an important one.

Electric vehicle services provider Better Place spoke recently with technology website CNET about the company’s bold plans for five hundred ‘battery exchange stations’ around Australia commencing in 2011.

At the battery exchange stations, drivers of Better Place compatible EVs will be able to have their nearly depleted lithium battery pack swapped-out for a fully charged set.

As reported by CNET, Better Place is also aiming to have re-charge plug-in points right across the country - in public places such as roadsides and public car parks, as well as charging points in electric vehicle owners’ homes.

Better Place CEO, Evan Thorley, told CNET that Australia was chosen because the system works best for long distance drivers, and our expansive country has plenty of those.


Guy Pross, Better Place’s Government Affairs Director revealed, “We’ll electrify, say, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, giving drivers a 160km range around Australia’s three major cities, because we can already do that in Israel and Denmark.”

“The big difference is that Australia is a very large country and there’s about 1000km each between those three centres. We can electrify the Hume Highway between Sydney and Melbourne by putting in 20 battery swap stations.”

“At about AU$10 million, that’s not a lot of money to connect Sydney and Melbourne.”

Better Place hopes to remove the obstacles holding back electric vehicles by owning the battery pack installed in Better Place-compatible vehicles. Motorists will likely pay per kilometre driven, although the company is looking at an “unlimited number” of possible pricing deals.

The company claims that this should make the price of EVs competitive with petrol/diesel cars. While the battery exchange stations should ease consumers’ concerns about touring range.

F1: Mercedes Will Not Join F1 Boycott

McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen at the 2009 Spanish Grand Prix.

Mercedes-Benz motorsport boss Norbert Haug has rejected speculation McLaren will join Ferrari and Renault in threatening to withdraw from Formula One.

Haug says Mercedes, who own a 40 percent stake in McLaren, is keen to find a solution and negotiate a compromise agreement with the FIA rather than simply walk away.

He told Sky: “We will try to help to find a solution: all the teams are agreed that there cannot be two regulations in one series.

“(But withdrawal from F1) is not a topic at Mercedes.”

Ferrari’s claim it will quit the sport unless the FIA make numerous amendments to the 2010 regulations has been dismissed as simply political manoeuvring in some quarters.


But Haug believes the Scuderia’s threat should be taken seriously, saying Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo holds genuine concerns about the future of Formula One.

“I know from conversation with Luca di Montezemolo and (Ferrari team principal) Stefano Domenicali that Ferrari has not made this threat lightly,” he said.

“After 60 years in Formula One they would not do so without some serious thinking.”

With five teams on the record claiming they are ready to turn their backs on Formula One, rumours have again begun to emanate from the F1 paddock suggesting a breakaway series could be on the cards.

Renault F1 team boss Flavio Briatore has moved to dismiss those claims, telling Italy’s Gazzetta dello Sport that teams want to remain under the jurisdiction of the FIA.

“I must be clear that we, Ferrari and the others have no intention of breaking with FIA. It is a remote hypothesis that everyone wants to avoid. We want to be there, to participate, to preserve the future,” he said.

Briatore though reiterated his belief that the FIA’s role should be diminished to that of an independent arbitrator, allowing the teams to determine the regulations.

“We are proposing logical conditions to Mosley. I want to make it clear that the teams are Formula One, the international federation should simply be the referee. We should write the rules, not have them imposed by Max without speaking to anyone,” he said.

Entire Bentley Range To Be Flex-Fuel Capable By 2012, New Powertrain On Its Way

Bentley Continental engine

The hedonistic pleasures of ultra-luxurious automobiles would ordinarily seem at odds with any sort of concern for the environment, but Bentley is aiming to change all that with its new focus on high-efficiency, alternative fuel engines.

The British automaker announced yesterday that its entire stable of high-end coupes, sedans and limousines will all be capable of running on petrol and ethanol, with the latter fuel lowering environmental impact considerably.

Bentley will roll out its flex-fuel range globally, meaning Australia-bound cars will also benefit from the new technology. Presently however, high-ethanol fuels are limited in their availability in this country; but in places like the USA where E85 is plentiful, it should be a big selling point.

Bentley Continental Supersports

Currently the only Bentley capable of running on ethanol is the Continental Supersports (above), which will be arriving in Australia in the near future.

Of particular interest, though, was Bentley’s mention that it would soon introduce an all-new powertrain which will boast a whopping 40 percent reduction in fuel consumption compared to the company’s existing motors. Does that mean the oft-rumoured hybrid or diesel Bentley is on its way? Ian Churchill from Bentley Motors says no:

“It does not indicate either of those,” said Mr Churchill.

“I can’t confirm what it will be at this stage, but as we go forward more details will come.”

Bentley Arnage 6.75 litre V8

In all likelihood, Bentley’s new powerplant would be destined to replace the half-century-old V8 motor that powers the current Arnage, which is due to be replaced soon. With the 6.75 litre bent-eight (above) drinking a huge 19.5l/100km on the combined cycle, it probably wouldn’t be all that difficult to return nearly double the fuel economy just by using a more modern petrol engine.

Nissan Offers To Retrofit 1st-Gen R35 GT-Rs With Updated Hardware… In Japan


There’s an old adage in fighter-pilot circles that goes along the lines of: “You don’t fly the ‘A’ model of anything”. Early adopters may get their hands on the latest and greatest doo-hicky before anyone else, but as with a lot of new technology, there nearly always needs to be a couple of revisions before all the kinks are worked out.

Nissan’s tech-heavy GT-R is no different. As much a marvel of electronics as it is of mechanical engineering, the GT-R as released at the end of 2007 has some substantial differences to the latest 2010 model.

2009_nissan_gt-r_cutawayMore reliable (and warranty-preserving) ECU tunes have popped up since the R35’s debut, but these are easily uploaded into the GT-R’s onboard computer at Nissan dealerships. It’s the physical changes that Nissan is seeking to redress, with the company offering a retrofit service to Japanese GT-R owners.

For between ¥494,000 and ¥532,000 (AU$6800 - $7300), Nissan Japan will throw a set of revalved (and more durable) Bilstein dampers, new springs, stiffer front lower control arm bushings and beefier engine mounts on your early-model GT-R.2009_nissan_gt-r_susp_01

The updated suspension kit is said to gift the GT-R with better stability under high lateral loads, as well as sharper handling. The damper valving is also stronger than the early items, and should stand up to race track abuse better.

Nissan Japan is now offering select parts from the range-topping GT-R Spec V too, with the Spec V’s titanium exhaust, 20-inch forged Rays wheels, carbon-backed bucket seats and reservoir tank (for what fluid, we don’t know) on sale. It’s essentially the same kit that’s offered in the super-expensive Nismo Club Sports package for the R35 (top), however we’ve yet to discover whether the pricing is any less extortionate.

Kia Motors Australia Launches Kia Assurance To Take Pressure Off Buyers


Kia Motors Australia has this week announced Kia Assurance, an insurance product designed to offer peace of mind to intending Kia buyers in the current economic uncertainty.

Kia Assurance is intended as something of a safety net for buyers who become involuntarily unemployed, forced to relocate overseas for work, or unable to drive for medical reasons.

In these circumstances, Kia owners will, in the first 12 months of their finance, be able to return the vehicle without further repayments or obligations. As a further benefit, this means the contract would be listed as an early repayment.


A free service, Kia Assurance launched this week at participating dealerships and is available on all Kia models with any stand-alone car finance.

Launched following the Federal Government’s budget announcement, Kia is the first car manufacturer in Australia to offer this type of deal, designed for the Australian market by Swann Insurance and Walkaway Australia.

Damon O’Shea, Director, Walkaway Australia Pty Ltd said, “This product has been available in Australia for 15 months [in other markets] and has seen much success.

“We are very excited that together with Kia Motors Australia this product will now be available to car buyers throughout Australia for the first time.”


Alan Crouch, National Sales Manager at Kia Motors Australia said, “Protecting our customers has always been our priority at Kia.

“Just as we offer the protection of an unlimited kilometre 5-year warranty across our range, we believe Kia Assurance will help to protect new Kia buyers and offer them further peace of mind when they buy a new Kia on finance during these uncertain times.”

While initially available until June 30, Kia has not ruled out extending the offer if it proves successful with buyers.

Both Kia and Hyundai have been running a similar program in overseas markets, credited with an increase in sales for both brands.

Speaking with TMR, Kia Motors Australia’s National Public Relations Manager Jonathan Fletcher said that the company is hopeful for a similar result in Australia.


In response to the Federal Budget’s tax breaks for small businesses buying new vehicles, Kia has sweetened the pot by dropping the price on the successful K2900 cab chassis and trayback models until the end of the financial year.

The K2900 Cab Chassis has been reduced from $29,390RRP to $25,990, while the K2900 Trayback has dropped from $30,890RRP to $26,990.

Proton To Launch Australia’s Cheapest Car, Revamp Dealer Network

proton_saga_01Proton has announced that it intends to sell the cheapest car in Australia early next year, which will become the ‘cornerstone’ of the Malaysian company’s local lineup.

With support from its Malaysian owners, Proton will also be rebuilding its Australian dealership network. It has cut ties with around 20 of its existing dealers, and a new network of between 45 and 50 dealers will be set up by the end of the year.

This is planned to better position the Proton brand in the market for the introduction of its un-unnamed budget sedan.

proton_saga_02The car will be based upon the Malaysian-market Saga, and will be powered by a 1.6 litre Campro inline four. Precise specification, retail price and even the car’s name won’t be known until it launches in early 2010, but Proton’s PR head Jon Thomson tells us it won’t sell for any less than $10,000. A Tata Nano it ain’t.

The new entry-level model should revitalise Proton sales here, particularly as the ongoing financial crisis continues to squeeze motorists out of larger cars and into smaller vehicles.

“We will launch a revitalised range with the low cost sedan at a price and specification level that will make it hard to ignore in the market,” said Proton Cars Australia Managing Director, John Startari.

“Australia’s lowest cost sedan will be the cornerstone of our range and Proton will present a value for money proposition from the entry level model to the sporty Satria.”